Two Baltimore police detectives in an elite gun trace task force were found guilty of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy on Monday. The case is part of larger corruption scandal has continues to rock the department. NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton, who has been covering the case in Baltimore.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
In Baltimore, a federal jury has convicted two detectives of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy. It's part of a larger corruption case that has rocked the Baltimore Police Department. Justin Fenton is a reporter with The Baltimore Sun newspaper, who has been following the case, and he's with us now. Justin, thanks for joining us once again.
JUSTIN FENTON: Yeah, thanks for having me.
SHAPIRO: Tell us about the case and what these detectives were accused of.
FENTON: Two detectives who were part of an entire unit that was tasked with going after drugs and guns in the city were accused of basically using that authority to rob citizens. In some of these cases, they were accused of stealing as much as a hundred thousand dollars, filling out false police reports, even making videos that purported to, you know, show a different series of events. The officers were convicted today by a federal jury of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy and robbery. And they face 60 years in prison.
SHAPIRO: This has been a massive police corruption case that has captivated people far beyond Baltimore. What's the reaction been today?
FENTON: Yeah, I mean, I think there's a lot of talk about, you know, how to fix this going forward. I think that, you know, post Freddie Gray, there was a lot of talk about reform. We're under a consent decree right now. And yet these crimes were taking place during that civil rights review. So there's a lot of questions about sort of how the agency can really get a handle on this.
SHAPIRO: There are also questions about whether it goes beyond two police officers. Baltimore's mayor says the crimes were committed by rogue officers within the department, but there was also testimony during the trial that revealed some bigger problems. So how is the police department handling this?
FENTON: Yeah, one of the things that the federal prosecutor said was that this was not a unit that went rogue. This was rogue officers who were sort of brought into one unit. And on the stand, officers who'd pleaded guilty who were cooperating with the government pointed out saying some of these things went back as far as 2008. They named names of other officers.
The federal investigation is continuing. In the meantime, the Baltimore Police Department says it's forming a task force. They've disbanded plainclothes police units. They're talking about implementing fingerprint scanners so people can't falsify their time sheets, as overtime fraud was a big component of this case as well. But, you know, again, they're going to struggle to prove to the citizens that this is going to - that they're going to be able to catch this next time.
SHAPIRO: You say that the federal investigation is continuing. Are more indictments expected?
FENTON: Yeah, we asked the acting U.S. attorney that. You know, he says that they aren't going to reveal anything that they've come across until there are indictments. And they won't say whether there are more indictments coming. A big challenge is that they are sitting on a lot of information that the police department and the public would very much like to hear about - names of other officers, other crimes. And, you know, they may not be able to prove those crimes to the extent that charges may be brought. And so what sort of happens to those allegations then?
SHAPIRO: And just briefly, how far do you think these convictions go in regaining the public trust in the Baltimore police?
FENTON: You know, I think that the convictions are going to be satisfying to some. But I think the problems that were exposed raise a whole fresh round of bigger questions.
SHAPIRO: That's Justin Fenton, a reporter with The Baltimore Sun. Thanks for joining us tonight.
FENTON: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.